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SOSORT 2022: the AWARD winners and a fourth ISICO President

This year’s SOSORT meeting, held in San Sebastian, Spain in the wake of two editions forced online by the pandemic, was a double success for ISICO, which had two studies shortlisted for the SOSORT Award.
One of them, Prediction of Future Curve Angle using Prior Visit Information in Previously Untreated Idiopathic Scoliosis: Natural History in Patients under 26 Years Old with Prior Radiograph, conducted in collaboration with the University of Alberta in Canada, came first, making this the fourth consecutive year that ISICO has taken home the prestigious award. But this was not the only high point. Our Dr Sabrina Donzelli, physiatrist, was named as the next President of the International Society. This is the fourth time that ISICO has had this has honour since SOSORT was founded in 2004,  and it is the first time a woman has been appointed to the role.

“This prestigious appointment is an acknowledgement of Dr Donzelli’s scientific standing, hard work and commitment, as well as a recognition of our institute, which now provides a benchmark for clinical and research activity worldwide” remarked Prof. Stefano Negrini, Scientific Director of ISICO as well as one of the ISICO authors — the others being De Giulia Rebagliati, Dr Fabio Zaina and Dr Alberto Negrini — who collaborated with Dr Eric  Parent, first author of the study that won the SOSORT AWARD. The congress was hugely stimulating and we can’t wait for 2023 and next year’s meeting in Melbourne, Australia”.

Ready for SOSORT

There are just a few days and the SOSORT  International Conference finally, after two years from the start of the pandemic, is back in person in San Sebastian, Spain from the 4th to the 7th of May.
It will be the usual pre-course, scheduled for May 4, to kick off the event: three of our specialists will participate in the round table, Dr Fabio Zaina, with a session on Overview of Adult Spinal Deformity classification, and how it is differing from AIS, Dr Sabrina Donzelli with  ASD prevalence and Dr Michele Romano, director of Isico Physiotherapy, with Standardized presentations describing assessment, clinical decision making process and treatment.

In the following days, Isico will be present again with three presentations: Dr Fabio Zaina will present on May 6th “Night-time bracing improves back pain in patients with painful scoliosis: six months results of a retrospective controlled study“, Dr Michele Romano on May 7th “Exercises for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: Updated Cochrane Review”  and finally, Prof. Stefano Negrini, scientific director of Isico, will compete for the SOSORT Award with his research Splitting Growth into 3 Phases with Cut-offs at Pubertal Spurt and Risser 3 Facilitates Prediction of Progression. A Study of Natural History of Idiopathic Scoliosis Patients from age 6 to End of Growth”.

For more info: https://sansebastian2022.sosort.org

Curves measuring less than 10 degrees: should we treat them?

As suggested by the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS), a scoliosis diagnosis is confirmed when a patient presents a Cobb angle measuring 10° or more and axial vertebral rotation. Maximum axial rotation is measured at the apical vertebra. (1) The SRS established this threshold in 1977, replacing the previous one of 7°. Ever since, 10 ° has conventionally been accepted, worldwide, as the threshold for diagnosing scoliosis.
However, structural scoliosis, with a potential for progression, can also be observed in the presence of Cobb angles measuring less than 10°. In fact, initial wedging of the vertebral bodies and disks can sometimes be registered with curves of 4°–7°. (2)

Idiopathic scoliosis, being a developmental disorder, most commonly arises and progresses during periods of accelerated growth (growth spurts).

The first such period occurs in infancy/early childhood, generally between 6 and 24 months of age, and the second between the ages of 5 and 8 years; finally, there is the pubertal growth spurt, which generally occurs at 11–14 years of age. (1)

Although the later stages of development are obviously not risk free, after puberty the rate of growth usually slows down, reducing the risk of progression of scoliosis. 

Can the risk of scoliosis progression be predicted in the case of curves measuring less than 10°?
There is, of course, always a chance that these curves will become more pronounced as the youngster grows, even, in some cases, to the point of requiring the use of a brace. But it is also true that most of them will remain stable over time without reaching the minimum criteria for a diagnosis of scoliosis. Certain factors may possibly be associated with an increased risk of scoliosis progression: a positive family history of scoliosis, laxity of ligaments, flattening of physiological thoracic kyphosis, a greater than 10° angle of trunk rotation (ATR), and growth spurts. All these factors should be evaluated by the attending physician. 

So, should we be treating these youngsters? In short, no. First of all, it is worth remembering, that the main aim of conservative treatment of scoliosis is to improve the patient’s appearance, but curves as mild as this rarely have an aesthetic impact; at most there may be some slight asymmetry of the trunk, but nothing that can be considered to exceed physiological parameters. With very rare exceptions, the only advice necessary in these cases is to opt for clinical monitoring of the patient, which can be considered to all intents and purposes a treatment, in the sense that it allows us to overcome the critical phases of development (which also correspond to the periods of greatest risk of progression of scoliosis) and also to intervene if any progression does occur. Monitoring is the first step in an active approach to idiopathic scoliosis, and it consists of clinical evaluations performed at regular intervals, ranging from every 2-3 months to every 36-60 months depending on the single case. 

In conclusion, any active treatment in this population of patients is actually overtreatment. Even just specific exercises, whose prescription constitutes first therapeutic step after monitoring alone, would cost these youngsters in time and effort, as well as being an economic cost.

A further aspect, not to be underestimated, is the psychological impact: starting a treatment amounts to confirming that the individual has a disease that needs to be treated, and this can lead them to start thinking of themselves as “sick”.

Furthermore, even though an exercise programme is not a particularly arduous undertaking, starting a treatment when there is no real need for one could compromise the youngster’s collaboration and commitment should a treatment be needed later on. This is an important consideration, because if their scoliosis does progress as they grow, specific exercises, rather than being useful, could become crucial, in order to avoid bracing for example.  

1 – 2016 SOSORT guidelines: orthopaedic and rehabilitation treatment of idiopathic scoliosis during growth

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29435499/

2 – Radiographic Changes at the Coronal Plane in Early Scoliosis. Xiong, B., Sevastik, J. A., Hedlund, R., & Sevastik, B. (1994). Spine, 19(Supplement), 159–164. doi:10.1097/00007632-199401001-00008

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8153824/

The experts’ brace-classification : a newly pusblished study with video-commentary

Studies have shown that brace treatment for AIS is effective but not all braces are the same. The classification of scoliosis braces developed by SOSORT with SRS, ISPO, and POSNA and approved by ESPRM, a study just published by The European Spine Journal, aims to produce a classification of the brace types.Studies have shown that brace treatment for AIS is effective but not all braces are the same. The classification of scoliosis braces developed by SOSORT with SRS, ISPO, and POSNA and approved by ESPRM, a study just published by The European Spine Journal, aims to produce a classification of the brace types.
Four scientific societies (SOSORT, SRS, ISPO, and POSNA) invited all their members to be part of the study. Six level 1 experts developed the initial classifications. At a consensus meeting with 26 other experts and societies’ officials, thematic analysis and general discussion allowed to define the classification (minimum 80% agreement).
The classification was applied to the braces published in the literature and officially approved by the 4 scientific societies and by ESPRM.
There are substantial differences in results published in the literature: one of the factors impairing research and leading to clinical confusion in the field is the absence of a classification to understand differences and commonalities among braces.
The only existing classification is common to all other orthoses, which is to classify braces according to the anatomical joints held underneath the brace—in the spine, these are the trunk regions. Unfortunately, according to this classification, almost all braces for spinal deformities fall in the thoracolumbosacral orthosis (TLSO) category, without other differentiations included.
As a result, clinicians cannot generalize research results on one brace to another with the same biomechanical action. Even worse, we could be inaccurately generalizing data on one brace to another brace with different biomechanical actions.
In this study the experts developed a definition for each item and were able to classify the 15 published braces into nine groups.
“This is the first edition of a brace classification that we expect to evolve further in future due to better understanding and more research – explains prof. Stefano Negrini, Scientific Director of Isico and first author of the article – It is based on expertise more than evidence, but we also must recognize that expertise is the first step of the pyramid of evidence when no better research data are available. Moreover, this expertise is shared worldwide among some of the best brace experts. The involvement and support of the leading scientific societies in the field should guarantee its dissemination”.
Watch the short video commentary of Prof. Stefano Negrini about the published study for our Isico Science corner video column

eSosort2021: Isico competes for the AWARD

Isico, too will be present with several presentations at the annual international conference Sosort, online from April 29th to May 1st.
A presence, albeit virtual, characterized by the possibility of competing again for the SOSORT Award. We recall that Isico has been awarded already in the last two years the prestigious international recognition given by SOSORT for the best research, to which is added, in 2019, the Award won as co-authors of a research study in collaboration with the University of Hong Kong.

“In this online edition, our study Efficacy of bracing in infantile scoliosis. A 4-years prospective cohort shows that idiopathic respond better than secondary scoliosis will compete for the Award along with six other studies – explains Prof Stefano Negrini, scientific director of Isico and first author of the research – an important result that recognizes the high quality of the research we are performing in Isico. Also, the study Adults with idiopathic scoliosis: progression over 5 Cobb degrees is predicted by menopause and metabolic bone disease, which sees as first author Dr Sabrina Donzelli (who won the Award in 2020) was nominated among the 7 best research studies: Dr. Donzelli will hold the presentation but will not compete for the Award this year.”
In addition, another study, Increasing Brace Comfort, Durability and Sagittal Balance through Semi-rigid Pelvis Material does not change Short-Term Very-Rigid Sforzesco Brace Results, is among those selected for the Podium presentation and will be presented during the event by Dr Francesco Negrini, an Isico physiatrist.

Isico also distinguished itself for the works accepted as Posters, available to subscribers to the event in an on-demand session, and they are three: Can the tilt-differences of limiting vertebrae be a prognostic factor for the worsening of the scoliosis curves treated with specific exercises? A pilot study using a series of matched patients, edited by our director of physiotherapy, Michele Romano, Reducing the pelvis constriction changes the sagittal plane in the brace. A retrospective case-control study of 37 free-pelvis vs 336 classical consecutive very-rigid Sforzesco braces and The modular MI-brace is as effective as the classical custom-made Sforzesco brace. A matched case-control study of 120 consecutive high-degree female AIS, both from Prof Stefano Negrini.

This year’s virtual meeting will begin with synchronous (live) presentations on Thursday, April 29th and Friday, April 30th, from 9 am to 11 am Eastern Time, and on Saturday, May 1st, from 9 am to 1 pm Eastern Time.

All the presentations will be recorded and be made available on-demand for a duration of 1 year on the SOSORT conference website for registered participants. For more information and registration, visit the event website https://esosort21.sosort.org

Scoliosis: is aesthetics measurable?

When it comes to scoliosis therapy, aesthetics is one of the goals along with a healthy back.

Aesthetic deformity due to scoliosis and its impact on the patient is considered by the members of SOSORT (International Society On Scoliosis Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Treatment) as the most important reason for treating AIS; unfortunately, only a few of scoliosis studies were found in PubMed on this topic. 

But can a goal, apparently so subjective, be measurable in a repeatable way to become objectiveYes,according to the data collected by the study Reliability, repeatability and comparison to normal of a set of new stereophotogrammetric parameters to detect trunk asymmetries, recently published by the Journal of BIOLOGICAL REGULATORS & Homeostatic Agents

“Aesthetic impairment is a crucial issue in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS), but to date no objective measurements are available – states Dr Francesco Negrini, Isico physiatrist – for our research, we used the Formetric®, which we usually use to measure sagittal planes. We have established parameters for evaluating symmetries in patients, such as those of the shoulder blades or hips, to obtain objective data related to the aesthetic aspect. In order to validate this instrument for clinical practice, the first step and aim of this study are to evaluate the repeatability of the parameters measured by surface topography in a group of AIS subjects and to test if they can distinguish healthy subjects from AIS patients to develop an objective tool for deformity evaluation of the trunk in AIS patients. For our evaluations, we used a device for surface topography based on the principles of rasterstereography. This device (Formetric®, Diers Biomedical Solutions) can reconstruct digitally in three dimensions the back of any person”.

The study evaluated 15 selected parameters that could be good predictors of scoliosis’ impact on the patients’ trunk.
“We analysed short-term (30 seconds, 38 subjects) and medium-term (90 minutes, 14 subjects) repeatability of surface topography measures and their diagnostic validity in AIS (74 subjects, 33 AIS patients and 41 healthy subjects) – proceeds Dr Negrini – All examined parameters were highly correlated as far as short, and medium-term repeatability is concerned”. 

When it comes to aesthetics we cannot stop at Cobb degrees alone, believing that there is no objective measure: “Symmetries can be measured repetitively, as we did in our study – concludes Dr Negrini – so we can offer an objective measurement of aesthetics in patients with idiopathic scoliosis. The surface topography showed good repeatability. Moreover, some of its parameters are correlated with scoliosis, showing that it could very well evaluate deformity due to this pathology. Thanks to these findings, it will be possible to develop a tool that can objectively evaluate aesthetics in AIS patients.”.

A Brace classification study

The study Brace Classification Study Group (BCSG): part one – definitions and atlas, published by Scoliosis and Disorders,  represents the first part of the SOSORT consensus in addressing the definitions and providing a visual atlas of bracing.
Prof. Stefano Negrini, Scientific Director of Isico, is one of the authors who belong to a panel of professionals named the Brace Classification Study Group
Prof. Negrini explains: “The current increase in types of scoliosis braces defined by a surname or a town makes scientific classification essential. Currently, it is a challenge to compare braces and specify the indications of each brace. A precise definition of the characteristics of current braces is needed“. 
As such, the International Society for Scoliosis Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Treatment (SOSORT) mandated the Brace Classification Study Group (BCSG) to address the pertinent terminology and brace classification.
The BCSG introduced several pertinent domains to characterize bracing systems.
The domains are defined to allow for analysis of each brace system. The BCSG has reached a consensus on 139 terms related to bracing and has provided over 120 figures to serve as an atlas for educational purposes. 
During the annual meeting of the International Society for Scoliosis Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Treatment (SOSORT) in Athens in 2008, Prof. Negrini presented a new classification under the acronym BRACE MAP.
BRACE MAP derives from the following terms: Building, Rigidity, Anatomical classification, Construction of the Envelope, Mechanism of action, and Plane of action. Each item was composed of two to seven classificatory elements defined using one or two letters in order to refer specifically to the characteristics of the brace throughout the classification.  
“A visual atlas of various brace types is provided – ends prof. Negrini – This is the first clinical terminology tool for bracing related to scoliosis based on the current scientific evidence and formal multidisciplinary consensus”.

And the Sosort Award winner is… Isico!

At the International Sosort Meeting in June, this year held for the first time ever entirely online, Isico recorded another great success.

Dr Sabrina Donzelli, Isico physiatrist, won the Sosort Award, the event’s top prize, for her research entitled: “Predicting final results of Brace Treatment of Adolescents with Idiopathic Scoliosis: First Out-of-Brace are Better than In-Brace-radiographs”. Her study was chosen over the work of 7 other researchers in the running for the award.

Among eight studies selected as oral presentations, the Scientific Committee picked out, as the two finalists, Dr Donzelli’s research study and a study on the genetics of scoliosis by the Montreal-based research group led by Prof A Moreau. “After the initial selection we were asked to submit a complete article to be entered for the Sosort Award” explains Dr Donzelli. “The prize, for the winning study, is a sum of money allowing it to be published in any magazine, as an open-access article, in other words in a format accessible, free of charge, to anyone who might be interested in reading it”.

The other studies running for the award included a long-term follow up of patients with scoliosis, presented by Dr AG Aulisa, a cost analysis of conservative versus surgical treatment, and two studies on Scolioscan©, the ultrasound equipment present as well at Isico’s Milan clinic. 

“Our winning research underlines how important patients’ first out-of-brace radiographs are for predicting the results at the end of their course of treatment,” Dr Donzelli goes on. “The accuracy of the model we developed and tested, is the key factor that won us this prestigious award, which will allow us to publish our work in the coming months.” 

In the course of the online meeting, several of our specialists gave presentations: Alessandra Negrini, Isico physiotherapist, asked “Is swimming helpful or harmful in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis?”, Dr Fabio Zaina, Isico physiatrist, gave a presentation entitled “ISYQOL, a Rasch consistent tool for quality of life evaluation in scoliosis patients during adulthood: comparison with the gold standard”, while our director of physiotherapy, Michele Romano, spoke about “The effect of dance performance on idiopathic scoliosis progression in adolescents”.

This is the second year running that Isico has not only been among the finalists but also gone on to win the award. 

In 2019, Isico also won an award with a study concerning scoliosis and sport. “The quality of our research has increased not only as a result of our acquisition of increasingly high-level methodological skills, but also thanks to the growing availability of systematically collected data,” explains Dr Donzelli. “In recent years, the data we routinely collect from patients visiting our facilities have allowed us to develop so-called predictive models. In other words, we consider the characteristics of large groups of patients to try and understand whether they allow us to predict their final results, or whether certain risk factors are more important to consider than others when deciding what type of therapy to prescribe. Our growing clinical and research expertise has led to international collaborations. Many others now look to us to provide expert support. We are also seeing an increase in our collaborations with international partners that want to analyse and compare their clinical and radiographic data with our database”.

Scoliosis: dance and swimming. Yes or no?

Is there any particular sport, rather than others, that individuals with scoliosis should choose? 

Two Isico studies have addressed this question, and in so doing they have dispelled the misconception that dance and swimming have a negative impact on scoliosis curves.

The studies in question will be presented in Melbourne, Australia, at the next SOSORT meeting, this year being held from April 27th to May 1st, 2020, during Spine Week.
As their titles show, these studies — Is swimming helpful or harmful in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis? and The effect of dance on idiopathic scoliosis progression in adolescents — explore the relationship between scoliosis and two types of physical activity: swimming and dance. 

Swimming and scoliosis

A few years ago, a previous Isico study, Swimming and spinal deformities: a cross-sectional study, exploded another myth.
It showed that swimming has no therapeutic benefit; in fact, the swimmers presented greater asymmetry and hyperkyphosis than the individuals who did not swim.
On this basis, it was concluded that swimming has a negative impact on posture and consequently is not an effective form of prevention. 

The aim of our latest study on swimming was to verify the safety of recreational versus competitive swimming in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis. 

Of 780 patients fulfilling the inclusion criteria, 529 (68%, 420 females, age 12.3 ± 1.3, 16.0 ± 3.6 Cobb degrees) regularly performed sports activities. 63 (12%) were swimmers, and 15 of these were competitive swimmers. 

“Compared with our 2013 study, in this latest research we did not consider healthy subjects” says Alessandra Negrini, Isico physiotherapist.
“We studied a sample of subjects with mild scoliosis (10-25°, mean Cobb angle 16°), not being treated with braces, and therefore only a clinical population. Our aim was to evaluate, on the basis of radiological findings at 12 months, the effect of swimming in individuals who already have a diagnosis of scoliosis and are going through a growth spurt (Risser-0-2, over 10 years of age). The effect of swimming was found to be comparable to that of other sports, and it was also similar in the competitive and the non-competitive swimmers. Age and hump size were the only factors found to influence the risk of worsening. These findings show that there is no reason to demonise swimming, be it recreational or competitive”.
In other words, they show that swimming is no better or worse than other sports.

Dance and scoliosis

Many spine specialists advise their idiopathic scoliosis (IS) patients to stop dancing on account of the risks (increased spinal mobility and flat back) that are potentially associated with the movements typically involved in this form of physical activity.
“The current literature reports a higher prevalence of scoliosis in subjects who practice dance than in their peers who do not dance” says Michele Romano, director of physiotherapy at Isico. ”In this research, we set out to assess the impact, in terms of the progression of idiopathic scoliosis, of dance compared with other sports in a group of adolescents (545 consecutive scoliosis patients)”.

The patients were divided into two groups: a Sport Activity group (SA – 461 participants), whose members performed any kind of sport, and a group of dancers, the Dance Activity group (DA – 84 patients).

“According to the results, the dancers showed a similar risk of progression as the patients performing other types of sport” Romano concluded. “The small sample size is one limit of the study; larger studies are needed in order to verify the effect of practising dance”.

Scoliosis: there is no particular sport that is more recommended than others 

So, what conclusions can be drawn from the two studies? According to the two Isico specialists, at present there is no evidence to suggest that any particular sport should be preferred over others, or that there is any sport that people with scoliosis should avoid.
Given that neither swimming nor dance, two of the activities most often discouraged for those affected by scoliosis, showed negative effects when compared with other sports, it seems unlikely that other types of sport might have a negative impact.
“The scientific evidence tells us that sport is good for us, and while it may not constitute a treatment as such (unlike specific exercises), it may have a positive effect, supporting the improvements recorded by those with scoliosis” says Alessandra Negrini, “as already shown by my study Effect of sport activity added to full-time bracing in 785 Risser 0-2 adolescents with high degree idiopathic scoliosis (which won the Sosort Award 2019). We at Isico have always believed that it is crucial for our patients to carry on doing sport, especially since their treatment can already be an uphill battle for them. In short, being able to carry on doing sport, something many of these youngsters are passionate about, can make it easier for them to accept the treatment.»